- Mom: Omer, why don't you eat some mangoes too, we have so many in the house.
- Uzi: Stay the hell away from my mangoes!
- Omer: You guys keep buying them, of course you're gonna have a lot.
One day, as the Argentine team readied for its game against England, Lionel Messi decided that he would take care of it alone. So he tells the team to go chill and he’ll play the English side all by himself for the whole game. The Argentines, puzzled yet confident in their star player, went off to have some fun.
When the Argentine team checked back in about 35 minutes later, the score was 1-0 for Argentina. Assured that all was going according to plan, they went off again and didn’t return till the end of the game. When they did come back after the 90 minutes, they saw that the final score was 1-1, the English had tied it.
They asked Messi what had happened, how had the English scored?
He looked at the them haplessly and said: “I have no idea. I was ejected from the game after 65 minutes.”
The final round of round-robbin matches are upon us and the field going forward could not look more open. Here are my notes on what we’ve seen till now:
If Spain’s loss in the first round of matches was anything to go by, we should have expected a continued struggle for top-tier teams in front of their lesser-renowned rivals. The large number of upsets and the continued low scorelines should not really surprise anyone though, and neither should they turn people away from the game. This the changing face of global football. After all, countries that do have stellar footballing pedigrees are fast gaining ground, with their players playing in some of Europe’s top leagues, with their coaches being well-experiences and internationally known and with better training facilities and funding. Why then, are we so surprised that this change is happening. I mean, why do we blame the better known team for not playing well rather than lauding the lesser known team for playing a stellar game and really showing up their opponents? Obviously, this is because we have grown up liking England rather than Algeria, Germany rather than Serbia and Brazil rather than North Korea. But upsets are a good thing, its good for football, its good for the players, its good for the fans and its especially good to see a new team rising and challenging the old guard. I for one, am quite happy.
The 12fth player on the field.
Referees are supposed to be silent conductors. They are supposed to step in when needed and be completely invisible otherwise. They are supposed to record and officiate the game, rather than be a part of it. But in this world cup, that has changed dramatically. Suddenly, the officiating is so heavy-handed and in some cases so lax that it has completely changed the momentum and shape of the game. Why the USA’s goal against Slovenia was ruled out I have no idea, why Australia’s Cahill and Kewell got red cards in two different games when really all they should have received were yellow cards I have no idea, why Ghana’s Addy did not get red-carded in the game against Australia for a terrible challenge, I have no idea. Regardless of whether these decisions helped my team win or lose or gain control of a match, they were terrible, and FIFA really must control the issue, or else this world cup may be known forever more for its officiating than the actual play.
The X factor
You can have the best national team stacked up against a nation unknown for its footballing prowess. You can line up the world’s best players in front of a bunch of nobodies. You can appoint a winning coach to compete against a novice. You can do all that, and still lose the game in world football. And this is precisely why I love international-level football, because of that x-factor, that one thing that can change the face of the game– national pride. Ask Serbia what helped them win against Germany. Ask North Korea what it took to hold Brazil goal-less for 56 minutes and then once they had been scored on, to come back one goal. Ask Denmark what pushed them when they won 2-1 against Cameroon after being down in the first twenty minutes. They will also say just one thing, pride; pride for your country, for your people, for your flag, for your jersey, for your colors, for your fans- it drives you to perform feats you never dreamed of. It raises armies and lays bare defenses and stymies offenses, it wins games. As we move forward, lets not forget the sheer will and belief that some of these teams can muster to embarrass our favorite stars.
Peaking at the right team
Time and again, in almost every sport, coaches and analysts talk about the elusive art of peaking at the right time. Its nearly impossible to predict and even harder to control, but when it does happen, it can catapult your team to greatness even if its not the best team. Earlier this year, Wayne Rooney was being touted as one of the best in the world, and yes, he had an explosive year for Man United. But damn if that boy didn’t peak early. Now, it seems like he is a toothless fairy flapping around, he hasn’t even managed to put a shot in goal during two games.
Too hot to trot
Following some dismal performance in the first round of matches, the second round saw some teams really open up and start playing some sumptuous football. Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Spain and especially Portugal are playing some fantastic ball. Offenses are primed, defenses are alert and an all-out attack regiment is being put in place which bodes well for what is to come. And what is to come is perhaps going to be the most hard-fought round of 16 in the game’s history.
Bring on the third round. Keep your boots laced if you wanna keep pace.
Bring on the third round. Keep your boots laced if you wanna keep pace.
Written by Mike Lacher and first published at McSweeney’s
Listen up. I know the shit you’ve been saying behind my back. You think I’m stupid. You think I’m immature. You think I’m a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I’m Comic Sans, and I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.
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